Listening #198: IsoAcoustics & Audio-Creative

It's a toss-up: The house where my family and I lived for 15 years was bigger than the one we have now, and had a much nicer view. On the other hand, we now live in a less economically depressed region, as suggested by the relative scarcity of inflatable lawn decorations. During the last year I saw in my neighborhood far fewer leprechauns, reindeer, Easter Bunnies, purple-and-green Draculas, and turkeys wearing pilgrim hats (which makes about as much sense as Russian soldiers wearing lederhosen). I find those things unspeakably sad, because they're horrible, cheap, gaudy wastes of money.

I'm beyond saddened by waste—a more apt descriptive is overcome by a paralyzing depression. (If ever I fail to answer your phone call or reply to your e-mail, it's likely I've just come in from seeing an especially tatty Santa Claus dressed in camo.)

That's one reason I have little enthusiasm for audio accessories of the tweaky sort: I can usually tell by looking which accessories will travel the shortest, fastest route to the landfill. (Hint: They're usually the ones with the most expensive packaging.) I mean, really: When was the last time you put that special mat under a CD—or that weight on your amp, or those wiggle-blocks under your preamp, or that jacket on your cables, or that wrap around your tonearm, or any number of other doodads once hailed as essential? I'm not saying those things don't produce audible effects: Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But if you're like me, around the third or fourth time you've had to remove those accessories in order to dust your components and their surroundings, they don't get reinstalled. In my house, they go first to my Basket of Deplorable Accessories, then to the closet in the TV room, and then to the landfill.

Thus I've surprised myself with my love for IsoAcoustics' Gaia III isolation feet, which are now literally integral to my primary record player.

Support group
I'm new to the idea of putting aftermarket isolation devices under my Garrard 301 turntable and the stacked-plywood plinth I made for it in 2011—new to using them, but not to wanting them. The stiff rubber feet I screwed to the underside of that plinth eight years ago were ones I found in my parts drawer, presumably cannibalized from some long-dead appliance. Those feet were a stop-gap measure, installed just to get the thing up and running, thinking I'd later replace them with something better. Unfortunately, something better was a long time in coming. Throughout those years, the only alternative that impressed me was an isolation foot used under the turntable plinths and other products manufactured by the German company LignoLab, which specializes in audio furniture made of wood, not metal—a company after my own heart. Unfortunately, I never succeeded in borrowing a set of those laudably compliant feet, whose isolation properties appear to extend to the lowest of low frequencies.

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I remained on the lookout for promising isolation products, but none caught my eye—until Robert Deutsch's review of IsoAcoustics' Gaia series of loudspeaker isolation feet crossed my desk. As Bob described it, and as I remembered from an IsoAcoustics demonstration at the 2017 Montreal Audio Fest, the Gaias offer a degree of compliance calculated to suit the weight of the product being supported. They're supplied in sets of four—one set per speaker—and are available in three different sizes/versions: Gaia I, the largest, a set of which can accommodate speakers weighing up to 220 lb; Gaia II, for speakers up to 120 lb; and Gaia III, for speakers up to 70 lb.

Broadly speaking, each Gaia has two components: a cylindrical housing machined from stainless steel and, protruding from its bottom, a round footer of somewhat smaller diameter, covered with a rubber-like substance. The latter part yields, slightly and more or less pistonically, to moderate pressure. The top surface of the cylinder is flat, with a threaded hole into which a supplied mounting bolt can be screwed. Also supplied are adapters that allow those bolts to be fastened, in turn, to the threaded openings found on the bottoms of many loudspeakers and/or their stands. Three common hole sizes can be accommodated by a set of Gaias as supplied; IsoAcoustics says they can provide other sizes as needed.

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Dave Morrison, founder of IsoAcoustics, told me that the composition of the Gaia's rubber-like material, from which the footer's inner structure is also made, is proprietary. But he assured me that it isn't Sorbothane, and that it's formulated to remain stable, not hardening or otherwise changing over time.

For applications in which threaded-bolt mounting isn't practical, IsoAcoustics offers an isolation foot called the Orea, which performs similarly but whose upper contact surface is rubbery and concave, the latter quality imparting a suction-cup effect when placed in contact with a very smooth surface. Also like the Gaia, the Orea is available in three versions: a single Orea Bordeaux, the largest, can support up to 32 lb; each Indigo can support up to 16 lb; and the littlest Orea, the Bronze, is for loads of up to 8 lb. (Because a good many audio components can be used with just three Oreas, their weight limits are expressed singly rather than for sets of three or four.)

In 2018, in response to my request for review loaners, IsoAcoustics sent me two four-piece sets of Orea Bordeaux isolators ($79.99 per isolator), presumably presuming I wished to use them under loudspeakers. But my reference DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 floorstanding speakers are supported by 0.75"-square plywood pegs built into the bottoms of their enclosures, and my Altec Flamenco horn loudspeakers are simply too heavy, and too dependent on the spindly stands I've made for them: Neither speaker is a promising candidate for aftermarket footers. I elected to try the IsoAcoustics devices under my Garrard 301 and its plinth, and followed up by requesting review samples of two other IsoAcoustics models that seemed right for that 40-lb combination: quartets of Orea Indigos ($59.99 each) and Gaia IIIs ($199.99/four). Installation was simple: lift up the back end of the plinth and slide two Oreas into the rear corners, then repeat the process for the front end. (The supporting structure was my Box Furniture D3S rack.)

Best footer forward
I imagined I might hear a bit of a difference between my plinth's original feet and the IsoAcoustics pucks. But the difference I heard was beyond my expectations. My colleague Brian Damkroger said it best in his review, last month, of Wilson Audio's Yvette loudspeaker: Holy shit!

I started with one of my favorite bluegrass albums, the eponymous solo debut by mandolinist Frank Wakefield (LP, Rounder 0007), and the song "Sleepy Eyed John." With the plinth perching on its original feet, the music sounded good enough (obviously—I've been enjoying this setup for nearly a decade): The solo mandolin was revealed as having been mixed front and center and was engagingly present, if not overwhelmingly substantive. The twin banjos also had good presence, despite being comparatively recessed in the mix, and sounded not inappropriately clattery. The double bass was weak but audible.

COMMENTS
ok's picture

my 3K artificial cervical disk replacement for a fragment of the price.. a fair deal I suppose.

tnargs's picture

Methinks you may have found a real use for these things!

ok's picture

..pending :-}

Bogolu Haranath's picture

At least isoAcoustics won't make chiropractors go out of business :-) ..........

JBLMVBC's picture

I like their video about small studio monitors... http://www.isoacoustics.com/video-isoacoustics-demo-at-metalworks-studio/
It certainly helps. But for the JBL observer, one cannot but notice the real "pro made" speakers on the wall, featuring 15" JBL 2226s... and horns. When these studio guys want basses and uncolored midrange, no substituting.

supamark's picture

Those big monitors at Metalworks Studio 6 are almost certainly George Augspurger monitors, an older version of their Classic 215H (link https://augspurger.com/product/augspurger-classic-215h-dsp2-1500-with-2-way-amp/ ) and before custom drivers they used TAD pro drivers (the ones at Metalworks are probably TAD TL-1601 woofers and TAD compression drivers with beryllium diaphragms for tweeters).

Pretty much nobody uses JBL for studio monitoring any more, they fell entirely out of favor by the early 90's. Still pretty popular for live sound.

And when studio guys want accurate bass/uncolored mids/flat response they go for the likes of Genelec, Barefoot, ADAM, Neumann, ATC, plus some Dynaudio and Focal (they have separate pro divisions, though Dynaudio isn't that well regarded in the studio world). They're all active and all listened to in the near or mid-field. Soffeted mains (like you see at Metalworks) are really only there to check real deep bass and hype the band - you really don't mix on them, except in the rare case where the room is designed around the monitors like a Tom Hidley designed room with Kinoshita Monitors (which use, you guessed it, TAD pro drivers).

JBLMVBC's picture

Check the tinsel leads. They are those of a JBL 2226 (longer, closer and slanted) not a TAD 1601 (symetrical and wide).
https://thumbs.worthpoint.com/zoom/images1/1/1016/03/jbl-2226h-speaker_1_05d597d491dd6f1b7d889eced138548e.jpg
https://thumbs.worthpoint.com/zoom/images1/1/0511/03/tad-tl-1601a-speaker_1_249c27029776988a7a1ca4a70bf36fb8.jpg

Jack L's picture

....... I elected to try the IsoAcoustics devices under my Garrard 301 and its plinth..." quoted Art Dudley.

Whatever "tweaks" put on for our audios, the last thing is to spend big bucks for them. That's always MY way.

All my audio components are lifted off their supporting substrates by
up-pointed steel spikes or acoustic cones since day one decades back.

The sonic improvement is very prominent in terms of image resolution & details, soundstaging & transparency. The cost for me was dirt cheap as NO costly brandnames were involved.

My vintage Thorens 125II turntable now I am still actively using with my MM phono cartridge, is lifted off from its own discrete stand with 4 up-pointing steel spikes at its four legs !!!!

On playing fire cracker music like Tchaikovsky 1812 cannon roaring battle-field effects via my 3 active subwoofers: L, R & L+R, no sweats!

Listening is believing

Jack L
Canada

Ortofan's picture

... squash balls for isolators?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Have you actually tried that, and succeeded in keeping your equipment in one place? I tried stuff like that decades ago, and gave up. The power cables kept pulling things off the shelves.

I'd love to see the squash balls that will work under Wilson loudspeakers. I'm less eager to hear the mush created by the movement of all those squash balls during loud percussion volleys. This is another way of saying, "Squash that thought."

Ortofan's picture

... the suspended type, so I don't need to put extra springs underneath them.
As for speakers, they (or the stands on which they are sited) are all coupled to the floor with spikes.

O-rings under the squash balls, or some Blu-Tack, will keep them from possibly rolling around.
If you're using a heavy "audiophile-style" power cord, fasten it to the rack with zip ties in such a way as to minimize the tension on the component.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

More power to you.

Anton's picture

Interesting!

How about tennis balls cut in half?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

'Deflategate' :-) .........

ednazarko's picture

And, you need to use the international style squash balls (which are very soft) and not the ones that people in the US use (hard as a rock.)

So yeah, have done. I was using them under my original large Advents, then under some medium-range B&W bookshelves. Also under my reel to reel decks, and turntables. (I had a turntable with a massively heavy base, and a massively heavy platter.) Now you know how long ago that was - Advents and reel to reel. Four halves under each. Could isolate from normal vibrations. But if people started to pogo, all bets were off. I'm much more conventional now... sorbothane, a couple of different densities stacked, shrink-wrapped to keep them from staining my wood shelves and desk.

I don't know the Wilson speakers, other than I seem to remember they're super heavy... so maybe the US style hard squash balls would be better.

Anton's picture

;-D

filmfresser's picture

But the Iso-Acoustic stands work remarkably well with bookshelf loudspeakers. Have a pair under my Quad S-2s, Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s, and Acoustic Energy AE100 and each loudspeaker sounds more open and detailed. Way better investment than idiotic $$$$ cables.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

under my Dynaudio active desktop speakers.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Are those Dynaudio Focus XD-200? ....... If so, may be you (JVS) could do a comparison follow-up review of the new similar Focus XD-20 active speakers? :-) ..........

Richard D. George's picture

The demo at RMAF of the speaker feat was amazing. Also, Dynaudio includes Isoacoustics stands with some of their desktop active professional monitors.

JohnG's picture

Bought a set for my Vandersteen Treo CTs and was rewarded with stronger bass and better stereo imaging. Noticeable right away.

ETA 29 May: Wrote to Vandersteen to see about how to set the vertical alignment of the speakers, since the math of the standard method of washers under the back spike wouldn't work on higher feet. Richard Vandersteen called me and, after a long discussion, convinced me that what I thought I'd heard was wrong.

Yes I know that sounds ridiculous, but after the talk I re-computed the distance and put the standard cones and spikes back. I was happier with this outcome, and sent the Gaias back to Amazon. Go figure.

BDP24's picture

The Townshend Audio Seismic products have gotten a fair amount of press in the UK, by as usual U.S. critics are late to the party. It's true a quad of the Pods cost more than the same of the GAIA III (but less than the GAIA I, for under heavy speakers), but far less than a Herzan or Minus-K isolation table, which are SOTA for tables.

Glotz's picture

I'm going to experiment with (same-thickness) Herbie's pads underneath the bottom metal plate of the product and see if that will contribute positively to additional absorption (for use with a turntable).

I wonder how well the bottom piece is secured to the bottom metal plate. If it comes up in one 'scrape', I'll be in luck.

volvic's picture

I have the pesky sorbothane feet on my SME 10 that stick to everything and make adjusting the table a pain. I wonder if these would fit as a replacement to the stock feet. They might look a little out of place, but if they improve the sound then, why not.

nomaslarge's picture

Ah forget it

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Suspended in disbelief :-) ..........

Glotz's picture

The investment is nominal, and I believe the combination of de-coupling and damping (upper & lower) is a sound mechanical approach.

I would, however, like to see inside the unit to understand a bit more. If that is not possible, perhaps ever, that is fine by me.

I think Herbie's products, specifically the platinum-cured line, would even enhance the performance substantially. I am confident I could have the right dimensions as an inexpensive, custom request.

The "grunge-buster' material just has greater initial, resistive memory that it doesn't demonstrate the physical compression characteristics that Sorbothane exhibits. It seems more initially 'resistive' and then releases energy much faster... 'Fast in, Fast out'.

For instance, applying pressure with a screw-down clamp and releasing it leaves a depression of where the pressure existed. Then, a simple touch of one's finger tip on the edge of the mat, the material snaps back instantly and to it's original shape. One of the strangest materials I've felt, and I've been using them for years in various turntable applications (but not the footers).

volvic's picture

Forgot the sorbothane feet are threaded not with a threaded shaft the way they appear in the photo. Oh well.

Glotz's picture

I think completing products in the price range that only use ball-bearing de-coupling are missing half the picture in vibration control (even when Delrin or other more inert materials included). I do believe they work better than Sorbothane pucks, but still lacking compared to this 'combination' approach.

Glotz's picture

The manufacturer does make custom threads for most applications and free of charge. My impression from others in various forums is to purchase, then contact the mfg. to have them send the replacement-thread screws. (I will do this process with my VPI turntable.) If there is doubt, contact the mfg. first...

volvic's picture

However, doubt they will but will call, the SME10 feet are threaded around the circumference of the feet, there is no shaft so they would have to offer something similar, a threaded shaft will not work in this situation. Will send them an email.

avanti1960's picture

Otherwise the article comes off as anecdotal at best. So if I have a Garrard 301 with stiff feet resting on a rack of unknown properties on flooring of unknown properties playing mandolin music at unknown volume levels- then adding these devices could make the mandolin sound louder in the mix?
What if my turntable has soft rubber feet?
Is the vibration it reduced originating from the turntable and reflected back to the tonearm and cartridge or was it air borne acoustic energy? Did you try it using headphones? How effective was the isolation at different volume levels? How solid is the rack that the turntable rests on? How close are the speakers to the turntable? What type of flooring is used?
If you provided more detail and did some basic experimentation to show the cause and effect relationships the article could have been useful.
Tony,
Chicago area

Ortofan's picture

... the turntable sitting on an inflatable lawn decoration.

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